The Music Of Catherine McMichael:  Strategies For Musical Masteryl


What's the best way to practice?

Music Lessons The ability to play well is not a function of years spent practicing, it's a function of minutes a day spent practicing. Nothing will yield progress more succesfully than daily practice for a substantial amount of time. The amount increases with the age and ability of the developing pianist, but the length of the lesson is a good minimum amount to start from. It's important to remember that mastery has growing pains. When the learning seems to be going nowhere, it's all the more crucial to keep practicing. It's the only way to regain momentum.

What is review and why is it important?

Music Lessons Every practice session should include review, which simply means playing your old pieces continually, not leaving them to gather dust after they're pronounced "finished". The most dependable way to make steady progress is to review several pieces every day for 10 to 15 minutes at the beginning of a practice session. Review can be a daily performance of revolving old favorites, or a selection of pieces that contain a single technique to be improved. It can even be an adventure in transposition or improvisation. Review is the "aerobic" element of your practice, while new pieces are the "strength training". You need both kinds of playing. Review pays real dividends in the form of a sturdy base upon which to build new skills, not to mention the ability to sit down and show off for friends and fans at any time!



1. Practice at the same time every day.
2. Practice when you're at your freshest. 30 minutes in the morning is worth 60 at night.
3. Warm up with something you enjoy playing. Review is the best warm up.
4. Go on to your hardest thing next, while concentration is high.
5. Set a specific goal for each practice session. ("Today I'll put that page hands together")
6. Decide with your teacher and parents how long you should practice, and stick to it!
7. Perform often, for parents, friends, in recitals. That gives you a solid reason to polish.


Art from Making Music My Own pedagogy series. 1. Keep practice positive. Stay on your child's side. Empathise with the effort.
2. You're the helper. Don't try to teach.
3. Take notes and/or tape the weekly lesson. Note assignments, technical points, goals.
4. Ask questions at the lesson if points seem unclear. Your child won't.
5. Turn off the TV, stereo, and phone ringer during practice time.
6. Not every minute of practice need be purely productive. Allow fun to happen!
7. Expect practice to get done. It's not pushing! It's homework in piano.


1. Make your practice expectations clear to the parent before lessons begin!
2. Write down assignments for the student.
3. Make practice and listening assignments specific and easily quantified when possible.
4. Help the student budget time per assignment in practice.
5. Keep a variety of music on the student's plate. Practice stays fresher.
6. Practice daily yourself. You'll gain a lot of insight into the day to day challenges.
7. Plan frequent performances for your students. Play at them yourself. Everyone benefits.

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